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Everyday leadership

November 1, 2013

The subject of leadership and what makes a good leader is a source of never-ending discussion.  Great leaders are often discussed in light of their actions during a major event, such as the Tylenol recall of 1982, where James Burke, the company’s chairman, was lauded for his leadership on the handling of the event.  [ http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/23/your-money/23iht-mjj_ed3_.html ]

But what about the common work day?  What makes someone stand out as a great leader when it’s just business as usual?

A leader knows their team – and not just what they’re working on, and how it’s progressing.  They know what’s going on outside of work because they’re interested in the person as well as the product, and they ask.  No one wants to be treated as a cog in the machine, and someone genuinely interested in you, your aspirations and interests in addition to what you can produce is someone who makes us feel appreciated (it can also positively impact how someone can be managed!).  In turn, we appreciate them, and are more willing to go that extra mile to deliver.  A relationship exists.

A leader keeps the focus on their team and what they collectively deliver.  If the team produces a stellar outcome, a leader will highlight the team’s work and credit them.  If it’s a fail, a leader will step up and take responsibility, because they didn’t get it right as the leader.  And no, this does not mean that poor performance is ignored, but leaders don’t throw people under the bus – they handle performance issues offline.  The result is trust, and can lead to a willingness to step out of the box and grow, or follow a scary path, because again, a positive relationship exists.

Bottom line, leadership is all about relationships:  good, bad and indifferent.  With the first, people are willing to follow.  With the latter two, things get very problematic.  And if no one is following, how can you lead?

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